Across San Mateo County, including in South San Francisco, city and county flagpoles will be flying the Progress Pride Flag in place of the traditional rainbow Pride flag, in recognition of greater inclusivity. San Francisco flew the Progress flag for a couple of days this month, but in June the rainbow flag will be the only one flown.
San Francisco was the birthplace of the rainbow flag, designed and sewn by the late Gilbert Baker and first flown in the June 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade on a float featuring Supervisor Harvey Milk. But in recent years, the rainbow flag was deemed by a new generation of LGBTQ activists to be insufficiently representative of the diversity in the community, and various revisions to the flag were proposed.
In 2018, Portland-based designer Daniel Quasar created the Progress Pride Flag, which includes black and brown stripes in a chevron pattern meeting the horizontal rainbow strips, to symbolize the Black and brown members of the queer and trans communities, as well as the white, pale blue, and pink stripes of the Trans Pride Flag. The rightward pointing pattern is meant to symbolize the need for forward motion in LGBTQ civil rights and social justice.
For 2021, the San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission has spearheaded an effort to get cities across the county to adopt the Progress Pride Flag in place of the rainbow flag. As Commission Director Tanya Beat tells the Bay Area Reporter, "We are inviting people to, I think, learn what the Progress flag is and have reason to fly it because it is all about equity and inclusion."
James Coleman, who was recently elected as the first openly LGBTQ person on the South San Francisco City Council, tells the paper he's "proud" of his colleagues on the council for voting in favor of flying the Progress flag.
"The Progress Pride flag centers the experiences of trans, Black, and Brown members of the LGBTQ+ community," Coleman says. "In addition to this, we as a city must work to turn words into action, and create a more inclusive and welcoming community to people of all backgrounds and identities."
Widespread adoption of the Progress flag has not yet occurred, and indeed, as the Bay Area Reporter notes, there are still cities around the Bay Area where there are still annual controversies over flying the rainbow flag. The Gilroy City Council just voted 4 to 3 earlier this month in favor of flying the Pride Flag this year, but among the three councilmembers who voted against it there's the age-old argument that this represents a "can of worms" and special dispensation for one group's flag that will lead to hundreds of other mysterious flags demanding to be flown.
The City of Sacramento flew the Progress Pride Flag for the first time in 2020, at the urging of the city's youth commission.
On June 1, multiple cities around San Mateo County including Redwood City, Belmont, Half Moon Bay, and San Mateo will be holding flag-raising ceremonies for the Progress Pride Flag.
In San Francisco, a Progress flag created by sister city Cork in Ireland, was flown at City Hall on Sunday, May 16, in honor of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on the 17th. That flag was removed at the end of the day on the 17th, and on June 7, when City Hall reopens to the public for the first time since last March, there will be a flag-raising ceremony for the traditional Rainbow Flag — which is also expected to be hoisted as usual up and down Market Street, despite the lack of a Pride Parade this year.
As the San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission explains on its "Pride Visibility & Information" webpage, "The LGBTQ community and allies use the Rainbow Flag as an outward symbol of their identity or support. Including the LGBTQ Progress Pride Flag highlights that your city is a leader in the fight for equal rights, and that you will continue to protect and expand the rights of everyone in your area."
Photo: Daniel Quasar